The 7 biggest (and sadly predictable) disappointments of the MLS season
3. Jason Kreis' failure in Orlando
Kreis was ushered in to prod Orlando City SC toward some sort of promised land, to forge the kind of success its large and loyal fanbase deserves, that belongs in its beautiful new stadium -- the kind of stuff he delivered regularly at Real Salt Lake.
No problem. Two months into this season, the Lions were 6-1-0 and atop the league, with games in hand on nearly everyone else. Cyle Larin had eight goals, a nice start to a Golden Boot run, and they'd done it mostly without Kaka.
As veteran MLS observers will attest, though, a 6-1 start, as nifty as it might be, doesn't mean a whole lot. OCSC has done its part to make that clear.
Since April, the Lions are 3-11-7, the worst mark in MLS in that time. They've been outscored, 39-19, and fallen to ninth place in the East. There's been trouble on the field -- no team wastes chances so casually, then pays for them with egregious play at the back -- and off, with Larin and Will Johnson suspended after arrests.
Orlando City has this knack of looking good without playing well, and pinpointing why isn't so simple. The team is better without the 35-year-old Kaka (1-9-4 when MLS' best-paid player goes at least 45 minutes, 8-3-3 when he doesn't), and Kreis, whose RSL teams were as effective as they were beautiful, has suggested that his guys are “unlucky.” Fact is Kreis has lost as many times in 44 games in charge (18) as Adrian Heath lost in 50, and Heath's failure to contend for postseason play led to his departure.
2. The Galaxy’s woeful transition
The LA Galaxy enjoyed a wonderful ride with Bruce Arena. Alas, all good things must end. It was always going to be rough, with so many key pieces departing, but 2017 has been far tougher than anyone at StubHub Center thought possible.
Curt Onalfo, Arena's hand-picked successor, had been head coach of the Galaxy II reserve team that would supply a good deal of LA's depth. The problem was most of them weren't ready to contribute, so when they were pressed into action, the Galaxy looked like a reserve team. The club hadn't been this bad since Ruud Gullit was in charge, and through a hefty stretch of the season, LA was a lot worse than that '08 team.
Onalfo finally was canned, and Sigi Schmid was brought in to right the ship. The addition of Jonathan dos Santos and Jermaine Jones' ownership of the No. 6 spot have been real pluses, and Sebastian Lletget is back on the training field, although we're not likely to see him in a real game until next year. LA needs to straighten out its attack and defensive depth and figure out if the No. 1 goalkeeper is already on the roster.
There is much to do and little patience, not with Los Angeles FC's ballyhooed arrival in the marketplace. A more nuanced approach to roster-building can be expected ahead of next season. If not, more woe awaits.
1. The Rapids fall to earth
The Colorado Rapids were the league’s big surprise last season, taking the Supporters' Shield race to the wire behind a lockdown defense and a most enviable home-field advantage. That they've regressed isn't so shocking: The Rapids have never sustained success for very long. That they're the worst team in MLS -- on the field, off the field, you name it -- is dumbfounding.
It began in earnest at the end of March, when captain Sam Cronin and left back Marc Burch were sent to Minnesota United for a couple of players (including the quite useful Mohammed Saeid) and an international spot while clearing substantial salary-cap space, all of which would be used to bring in players who would fit into the more attack-minded game the Rapids claimed to be playing. That proved a disastrous decision in terms of 2017 results.
Ultimately, head coach Pablo Mastroeni took the blame, but Rapids ownership has never shown much desire to compete regularly among the league's best. There's a lot of uncertainty within the club, with an interim general manager, head coach, and chief business officer. An extraordinary amount of work has to be done, both short- and long-term.